This rheumatoid arthritis pregnancy blog post is for general informational and educational purposes only. The information is not intended as, and shall not be understood or construed as, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek advice from a medical professional before taking any actions based upon such information. My article may contain affiliate links. This means I may get compensated at no extra cost to you if these links are used to make a purchase.
Pregnancy and Parenting Rheumas
When I first started The Rheuma Mill, one of my very first posts was about rheumatoid arthritis and being a mother. You can read that article here. I’ll expand a little more in this rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy blog post. This article will include parenting in general (dads get RA too!) and discuss rheumatoid arthritis treatment during pregnancy.
Rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy blog
Rheumatoid arthritis and parenting is not often discussed despite having profound impacts on each other. In much the same way, rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy blog posts are also hard to come by, particularly written from a patients’ perspectives. Prenatal blogs rarely explore what the experience is like for those living with RA. It’s a subject matter only really discussed in some arthritis blogs and support groups amongst other women despite being an important topic. It’s actually quite interesting to note that after writing about it for the first time, I was asked to write more articles about the same topic for other publications within the space of three months!
Can pregnancy cause rheumatoid arthritis?
Pregnancy induced rheumatoid arthritis can occur due to the increase in hormonal activity. In saying that getting rheumatoid arthritis when pregnant or getting arthritis from pregnancy is quite rare. It’s also worth noting that although RA can run in families, there are many people with RA with children who do not have rheumatoid arthritis.
Pregnancy and treatment
For those planning on starting or adding to their family and for those that are pregnant with rheumatoid arthritis, the biggest concern is how medications will affect their little baby. Always discuss any family planning during your rheumatologist visits so your treatment plan can be altered accordingly. There are many different treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis including natural remedies and pharmaceutical. Many of these treatment options are safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, there are common treatments such as methotrexate which is not safe and can cause birth defects. It’s important to remember that treatment plays an important part in controlling disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis. Subscribe to my email list for your free Guide to rheumatoid arthritis medication booklet!
Breastfeeding and treatment
New mothers living with autoimmune diseases are naturally concerned about the effects of treatment on breastfeeding. The topic of breastfeeding is contentious in general and I am of firm belief that breastfeeding is only best for baby if it is also best for mother. Many mothers living with RA choose to not breastfeed or stop breastfeeding early to continue treatment. Conversely, there are mothers who chose to stop treatment in order to breastfeed. This is a personal choice and there are many reasons why a mother chooses to breastfeed or not.
Pregnancy and rheumatoid arthritis
Many women enjoy remission during pregnancy but they may also experience a rheumatoid arthritis flare after pregnancy. However, this is not the case for everyone. Some women had have a rheumatoid arthritis flare-up during pregnancy.
Methotrexate during pregnancy
There are many treatments available for rheumatoid arthritis that are safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding depending on the dosage. In saying that, medications like JAK inhibitors, Methotrexate and Leflunomide should be avoided. It is important to discuss treatment and rheumatoid arthritis in pregnancy guidelines with your doctor.
Rheumatoid arthritis and labor and delivery
There is data to suggest that women with rheumatoid arthritis are at an increased risk of preeclampsia, premature birth and low birth weight. This really all depends on the disease activity during pregnancy. Pregnancy, labor and delivery may of course cause extra strain on some of your joints. This does not mean you have to opt for a Caesarian as vaginal births are still possible.
Joints and pregnancy
During pregnancy, consider planning for your needs as well as your baby’s needs. Ensure that you have planned and put support in place postpartum. This may mean having compressions ready, pillows and positional aids ready. Pillows and positional aids will ensure comfort while nursing and sleeping. Compressions is good to help you handle your little one and undertake tasks with less strain on your joints. Many women who had a rheumatoid arthritis pregnancy suggest rearranging or positioning furniture before baby arrived to avoid getting down on the floor or to use as leverage to get off the floor.
You are #1
Once baby is born and I think as parents in general, it is important to practice to self care. As a mother of 3, I know how hard that can be. It is however true what they say: if you can’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for others. I know that when I am unwell, my entire household comes to a complete stop. Parents are like machines and like all machines, need oiling and maintenance.
One of the most important parts of self care is sleep. As a woman that had 3 children in 3 years, I know how challenging it can be to prioritise sleep. It’s important to remember that sleep doesn’t just affect our energy levels, it also affects our mood and also our cognitive function. Subsequently, if the opportunity to sleep or rest arises, it is best to capitalise on it. Think of it as a want as opposed to a need. You want a tidy house but you NEED to sleep. If your house looks like a tornado just ripped through it, so be it! It does NOT make you a less of a mother or a housekeeper.
Nutrition and exercise
Another important part of self care is to ensure that you not only eat right but just remember to eat! Nutrition is not just good for our health and gives us needed energy but it also helps to control rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Self care also means taking time out to exercise. This may mean just a short stroll for some fresh air and movement or simple stretches. A light workout will help with mood and energy levels. Why not try my free stretch and exercise program especially designed for those living with rheumatoid arthritis? It can be done at anytime, anywhere and there is no need for equipment. Exercise is also a great way to combat brain fog and fatigue associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Meeting the demands of parenting
Rheumatoid arthritis can place certain limitations on you as a parent. Fatigue and physical limitations can make meeting the demands of parenting that much more difficult. Meal preparations and playing with your kids are two areas that I find most difficult for me as a parent. Things like meal planning, cooking bulk meals, freezing meals, buying pre-cut ingredients have helped to make things a little easier. Adaptive kitchen aids are also good investments to make for your kitchen. Meal times may look a bit different but it’s a good opportunity to experiment with different recipes and meal ideas.
Being active and playing with your kids can be really challenging when you don’t have the energy or physical capacity to do so. Since my diagnosis, we have had to replace some of our usual activities with different ones. Instead of playing basketball or going to the trampoline park, we now go to the movies, laser tag or play board games. It’s easy to focus on the things you can no longer do so try to think of it as venturing out and discovering new things. At the end of the day, it’s quality time that you’re after and your presence is what is most important to your children.
Rheumatoid arthritis and the family
There is no doubt that rheumatoid arthritis affects the family dynamics. However, talking to your family can help make the transition easier. I have written an article about explaining RA to your loved ones that you can read here. Explaining your condition to your children however can be a little more challenging. As a teacher, I know that it’s important to keep the discussion age appropriate and to only discuss what your child is able to digest without causing distress. Explaining your condition to your children however is important because your child will know and sense that something is amiss.
Explaining rheumatoid arthritis to children
Plan your discussion in a calm environment where everyone, including you, can be comfortable. The aim is to inform your child and not to alarm them. Keep the terminology and facts simple such as ‘Some days my legs and hands will be hurting and I will feel very tired’. Follow this up with positive reinforcement that despite what you may experience and even though some things may be different, you will still be there with them. You may want to plan with them things to do and things you may need when you are not having good days.
Bad days will be unavoidable and it can be distressing for your children to see you in pain. It is however important for them to see how you deal with hardship. It will be encouraging and inspiring for them to see that despite what you live with, you continue to try. I know from experience, that my kids have certainly matured and become more empathetic since my diagnosis. They also have come to appreciate my good days.
Living with rheumatoid arthritis is difficult and pregnancy and parenting can further complicate things. However, with planning, self care and careful monitoring with your health care team, pregnancy and parenting can be made easier and be an enjoyable experience.
Rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy forum
Have any questions about this rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy blog post? Join me in our Facebook support group and start a RA pregnancy forum discussion. If you prefer, you can contact me privately through my email address.